How to Fall in Love with a Diamond

The complete guide to buying a natural diamond engagement ring.

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When did we begin to equate diamonds with eternal love? A 1477 royal engagement is likely the source. The union of Mary of Burgundy and the Archduke Maximilian of Austria was a true love affair. Legend has it that Maximilian, who would be named Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in 1508, set off for Burgundy and received tokens of silver and gold for support along the way. It was enough to buy his intended a gold ring with diamonds set in the shape of an “M.” Wedding tradition up until this point had been to offer bands of metal to formalize the official union, but the idea of an engagement ring, a promise of betrothal, and a diamond one at that, was radical.

This engagement may have started the tradition, but many also point to the power of the 1948 “A Diamond is Forever” campaign as the modern moment when the stone became firmly connected to the idea of love and commitment. “A Diamond is Forever” was once voted the slogan of the century. It worked so well because it is true. A diamond, the strongest and most beautiful of the Earth’s natural resources, does in fact, last forever.

Don’t Lose Your Personal Style

There is enough variety in engagement ring styles that you should feel comfortable choosing the one that most reflects the ring you would want to wear if it were NOT your engagement ring. Your choice of diamond cut is the first step in making a personal statement. (Note that Queen Victoria’s engagement ring was in the shape of a serpent, a symbol of passion and eternal love. And so a diamond snake ring should also not be out of the question.)

Consider how your engagement ring, something you will wear daily and forever, complements the rest of your jewelry pieces and your wardrobe. A classic solitaire is the most traditional of styles, and its simplicity will pair well with a style that also follows those elegant lines.

Research the women who have worn similar rings to the one you are considering. The geometric modernity of an emerald cut is a slightly bolder choice—think Liz Taylor and Jackie Kennedy—but its clean lines still render it a classic. (If you like the emerald but want something just a bit softer, look into a princess cut.)

The marquis cut is said to have been inspired by a commission of King Louis XV of France. The diamond of that piece reminded the king of the lips of his mistress, the famed Madame de Pompadour, Jeanne Antoinette Poisson. They were, Louis believed, the most perfect lips he had ever seen. The marquis is a strong style statement that conveys a bit of retro glamour. If your style has ever been described in those terms, ask to see some. A similar old Hollywood glamour look can be achieved with the pear-shaped diamond. Both of these cuts have cycled in and out of favor over the years, which makes choosing them a bit daring, but that’s part of the joy in choosing your own natural diamond. It is yours, forever, and should feel that way from the beginning.

Trust Your Instincts

The most important thing I ever learned about choosing a diamond is that it should be love at first sight. “Beauty, the mystery that cannot be measured,” Andrew Coxon, a veteran diamond buyer, expert and now the president of the De Beers Institute of Diamonds once told me. Coxon compares falling in love with a diamond to actually falling in love. “It’s first the eye, then the brain, then the heart—but in what special combination, and why?” Even though we have all spent time learning the Four Cs, we should be focusing instead on the BIG B: Beauty.

“It should be your first question when choosing. Is it beautiful? Your second question, especially when you fall in love suddenly, is why? I have spent a lifetime looking at diamonds and know from my experience that beauty is the rarest of all diamond qualities—and the most valuable,” he said.

His advice makes the process of buying a diamond simple in some ways and more difficult in others. The Four Cs create a clear guideline for choosing a stone, and one should definitely be familiar with the quality and the cut of a natural diamond before investing. But as with falling in love, what “looks good on paper” does not always work out the way you dreamed. Relying on your individual reaction to a diamond—the one that takes your breath away the moment you see it—is a much better way to fall in love with a stone, especially one that will signify such a deep and lasting commitment.

And Remember: This is Just the Beginning

A natural diamond engagement ring is the first step one takes in creating a jewelry legacy. This is the investment that begins a life’s collection. What’s next? The strength and beauty of a natural diamond—the indisputable fact that it lasts forever—makes it the strongest choice for all milestone jewelry moments and occasions when someone simply wants to celebrate, or even just celebrate themselves. If there was a list of the jewelry essentials, a strong diamond collection would be at the top. The classic diamond stud, a pair of diamond hoops, a tennis bracelet and a diamond rivière are jewelry pieces that translate across almost all personal styles and can transcend time. They are an investment you make today that will be passed down for generations. Diamonds never die.